Maestoso / Woolly Wolstenholme

Caterwauling

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14 years passed between Wooly Wolstenholme's solo debut and his second set, and another decade was gone before a third album appeared, credited to the artist's new solo moniker Maestoso. 2004's One Drop in a Dry World, was swiftly followed by Grim, and a mere two years went by before Caterwauling landed on the shelves. While One Drop was an exuberantly diverse musical affair and Grim a wildly creative concept set, Caterwauling neither explores new musical territory nor presents an overarching theme. A far more introspective affair, here Maestoso seems intent on solidifying his musical ideas. There again, the artist is not immune to current events or their antecedents, tracing the long historical trek of the "Soldier of Fortune" across a free-form jazzy, prog rocker. Flipping the coin, Maestoso then follows a patriotic young enlistee down "The Road to Nowhere." The latter's a perfect pop/rocker, and almost reminiscent of the Jam at their epic heights. Maestoso's sympathetic portrayal of both these characters is belied by the heavy-hitting "Shoes," a requiem for war's multitudinous innocent victims, that begins in quiet beauty, then explodes into progressive metal-laced rock. This triptych of death is the set's only concessions to current climes, bar the sarcastic expose of our "Pills"-popping culture, with the rest of the album given over to more personal affairs. There's a trio of moody, yearning numbers in the center of the set -- the revelatory "Closure," the emotive rocker "Always," and the introspective "I Don't Like You." One can draw one's own conclusions that the group is book-ended by "The Collector" and "Tonight Could Be the Night," electrifying numbers both, but representing death and beginnings respectively. The lilting "Matilda Yarrow," in contrast, is a gentle lullaby, "Strange Worlds" a succinct sci-fi story set to a grandiose pop backing, and "Blossom Hill" a return to simple pastoral pleasures. Joined once again by Kim Turner, Steve Broomhead, and Craig Fletcher, alongside a guesting Geoffrey Richardson and Jake Fletcher, the music and arrangements are magnificent, the quieter numbers glistening, the rockers spectacular. Not as immediately mind-blowing as One Drop, nor as cohesive as Grim, Caterwauling, instead strengthens the links to Wolstenholme's own past with Barclay James Harvest.

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